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Newcastle councillor John-Paul Stephenson champions visible difference in the local press

Our latest update on the ITAE Productions event Dinner and Dissection - The Elephant Man.

Alongside condition-specific charities Proteus Syndrome Foundation UK and Genetic Overgrowth PI3K Support (GoPI3Ks), we have been contacting national and local politicians to express our concerns about the promotion of the Joseph Merrick ‘The Elephant Man’ Dinner and Dissection event due to be held in Newcastle in the run up to Halloween. Following our contact with Newcastle City Councillor, John-Paul Stephenson, the councillor then spoke to several local news outlets to echo our unease at the sensationalist nature of the event promotion.

Councillor Stephenson, who is the cabinet member for public health and culture, urged the organisers to meet with Changing Faces, the condition-specific charities and those with lived experiences saying:

I urge the organisers to meet with the relevant charities and those with lived experiences of the conditions to understand the impact of their juvenile event. There are plenty of alternative, more mature avenues to learn about the science of dissection without resorting to trivialising disability for entertainment and profit. I have directed senior licensing officers to take appropriate action.

Councillor John-Paul Stephenson

Since Cllr Stephenson made his statement to the press, Gosforth Rugby Club have also been publicly reported as cancelling the event at their premises. Read more about this as well as the club’s response.

Working together as a team with Proteus Syndrome Foundation UK and Genetic Overgrowth PI3K Support (GoPI3Ks) came about after members of the visible difference community spoke out about the concerning way in which the event is being marketed, criticising its use of Victorian “freak show” imagery.

A man with a visible difference in a suit with his head raised to the sky and his arms out at his sides

Adam Pearson, Changing Faces ambassador

Adam Pearson, a Changing Faces ambassador, says: “As an actor and communicator, I adore adding a bit of theatrics and dramatic flair to what I do. However, by the same token, if an entire community raised concerns about my approach (such as my use of vaudevillian language) I would certainly do my best to engage with them and reach a compromise that would both enable my event to proceed, as well as respect those communities who are affected.”

You can read our full original statement about this event here.

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